Issues



March, 2017 Issue

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A Campus Artist's Big Break

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Roy Wood, Jr. is a name that anyone with any longevity in the campus market, or has been a frequent reader of Campus Activities Magazine would know. He's been rigorously touring campuses for more than 10 years and has become a staple here in comedy. In the last three years, he has spread his face to a national market, as a regular supporting role on the TBS sitcom "Sullivan & Son" featuring Steve Byrne.

Now, with an exciting announcement that lands SPOT ON in the campus market, Roy's star is about to rise even higher. Starting this season of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," Roy will be featured as a regular correspondent. It's exciting news for us in the campus market; we have an entertainer who knows our audience and understands the ins and outs of doing dates on campus, who also has the draw of being on primetime television. This isn't to mention that all of us in the campus market feel some pride when a hometown boy makes good and we can say "hey! I know that guy!" when he's on TV.

While it's exciting for us, Roy's brain circuits are a little overloaded. There is no more perfect term than "shell shocked." "You know what, I don't think it has quite hit me yet but it is definitely a blessing and a wonderful opportunity," he says. "To be part of such a storied program is an honor. I mean, they just won three Emmys this year. No pressure or anything," he jokes. "I feel like a walk-on for the team that just won the Super Bowl. I am happy to be a part of it and it has been a great learning experience thus far just taking everything in.”"/p>

Roy may be a walk-on in the Super Bowl, but his analogy is a little unfair to himself, unless you consider he has been playing some pretty high level ball already. He’s been in the game for 17 years. “I have been blessed to have what I feel to be a pretty long career so far, I started comedy when I was 19 years old and have been doing it ever since. It's a job that can be kind of stressful from time to time."

Being featured on the hit sitcom "Sullivan & Son' was a great break for Roy and opened a lot of doors. "Before TBS, my body of work hadn't included the scripted comedy or sitcom world. I have learned a lot of tricks as an actor, so that was a great gig for me. When you couple that with all of the years of experience in stand-up, multiple appearances on "Conan" and even the radio work I have done, it has all helped to prepare me for this opportunity."

That breadth of experience made Roy a perfect choice for the new position. "There were tons of other people who auditioned. This is a very long and involved process that Comedy Central takes very seriously. Being the last man standing at the end of that process is definitely something I don’t take lightly."

It’s a pretty perfect coincidence for Roy and his campus fans that he ended up on a program so directly suited for the market he is already experienced in. "I had to kind of laugh to myself," he says. "I am a guy who does really well at colleges, on a TV show that college students watch, at a time when a lot of them are watching. I thought to myself ‘This should be pretty easy.’ There is definitely a lot to learn now that I am there, but it is cool to be connected to something that is already connected to the people I have entertained for well over a decade."

You might think it a tentative connection, but the truth is that it has already come full circle. "I already did a piece for 'The Daily Show' where one of the people I interviewed was a student at UW Platteville a long time ago who had seen me on campus." It shouldn't really come as a surprise though. If you do that math, Roy has done close to 1000 campus dates in his career. If the median crowd was 100 people (we all know there are some much bigger and some much smaller), that means Roy has performed live, on stage, in front of at least 100,000 people. Odds are he's bound to run into more folks that remember him from their college days. "Damn, I didn't even do the math like that," he says, sounding a little shocked himself.

Roy hails originally from Birmingham, AL, but his stage origins aren't rooted there. "I started officially in Tallahassee, FL. Of course I went home and did open mics in Birmingham, but that only happened there once a month. Much of my week to week growth as a comedian came at Florida A&M University but really even more so at Florida State. I was enrolled at A&M, but Florida State had more shows and opportunities. I spent a lot of time entering student talent competitions and things like that."

The actual "campus market" as we think of it as its own unique entity is something that Roy wasn't aware of for a while. "The funny thing is that I didn't even know a lot about the market. What little college work I had achieved came on the heels of doing gigs at Florida State. It wasn't until I met Chuck Johnson from Summit Comedy (who is my college agent now to this day), that I found the potential for full time touring in this market. It was Chuck’s idea, I'll be honest. I didn't know a lot about that world. He started submitting me for conferences.”

It wasn't an instant success. "It was hard early on. The market can be competitive and sticking with it long enough to prime the pump is the key. I submitted for probably the first two years before I got selected to showcase. When you are a young comedian and only making $500 a month take home pay after expenses, the $80 submission fees really hurt, especially when you don't see an immediate return."

While Roy had to keep his head up during the initial slow time, he says once he got in he felt like he had really earned it. "Because of the way the campus market rotates in and out and the folks who are responsible for making the booking decisions, I feel that the selection system in this market is one of the fairest systems in comedy, in terms of assessing talent. I also like it because it forces you to stay fresh as a performer. The people who chose me to showcase at conferences 10 years ago are not the same people who chose me 5 years ago and are not the same as those choosing this year or next year. That constant turn over gives all of the talent, old and new, an equal chance to get in the door, as long as they stay sharp, fresh and funny.”

Roy Wood Jr. has been one of the most consistently working comics in a variety of venues and markets in the last decade. From the stage to television and even hosting a weekday morning show radio, once he was able to get himself noticed, he has stayed in the public eye. "2005 was the breakthrough year," he says. "That is when I started doing colleges full time, which was easy for me, because that is where I learned to do comedy. Getting on TV was a natural extension of that. Everything you do as a performer is connected to the next thing you are destined to do. It's all important and it's all beneficial and every step of the way you have to prove yourself. I personally love the fact that everything has to be earned and is not freely given. That never stops. Nothing is given. Maybe now with 'The Daily Show' who knows? But I feel like everything I have accomplished in my career was because I just kept writing and tried my best to stay fresh and original with my material. Even then, you are competing against other people that are doing the same thing. After I did 'Conan' once, they didn't just call me and say 'Come on down whenever you like,' there is a screening process and you have to submit your materials each time to a booker, the same way you do each time to try and get a showcase slot. The only thing that is different is the length of the tape and the subject matter of the material.

"It has been a fun ride and I have been fortunate enough to make a television appearance every year since 2001. Every single year since I was on 'Showtime At The Apollo' I have managed to land a national TV appearance. That is something I feel very fortunate to be able to say."

The frequency of that particular point of pride is about to jump way up. Contact Summit Comedy at 800-947-0651 or melissa@summitcomedy.com for more information on bringing Roy and a little taste of The Daily Show to your campus.